I love Halloween… well, I used to love Halloween. The older I get the more creepy it seems to be becoming. It used to just be walking around with friends getting candy from random houses and wearing a silly costume. Now a costume either looks like it came straight out of “Hellraiser” or the Victorias Secret website. I dare not check my Facebook feed during the week of Halloween so I don’t see an image of scantily clad people I once had respect for. Apparently a nightgown, some whiskers, and a set of cat ears make a costume these days. Needless to say, I don’t love Halloween anymore. I used to though, and this is why.

 

I loved being someone else for a day. I loved putting on that Batman mask, or the Phantom of the Opera mask, or my furry body suit and becoming “The Wolf Man”. Likely one of the big reasons I was in theatre also, becoming someone else is a lot of fun. I wonder how many of us have become professional trick-or-treaters? Some put on their costume for Halloween, grab their candy, and then put it in the closet until next year. Most, however, put their mask on every morning before they walk out the door. What am I talking about? That is a question you need to reflect on yourself. It is different for everyone. Many days I have to put on the mask of “self confidence”. It makes me look like a competent and successful person, when under the mask I can feel unsure and off course. Maybe you are putting on the mask that says, “Everything’s great” but in reality, your life is falling to pieces and you wish desperately you could just let someone know.  I see people walk into church every week wearing the mask of “Christian”, when behind closed doors they are disrespecting their spouse, not loving their children, looking at pornography, or just so depressed and hopeless they sometimes think of ending their life. Because they wear that mask, no one ever pushes deeper to know what is really going on.

 

Jesus was amazing at seeing through masks. He did have a leg up on the competition because He was God after all. He could see Zacchaeus(Luke 19) sitting in the tree and know that he needed to go to his house to straighten out Zach’s thinking. Jesus saw through Zach’s mask of success and wealth. Jesus saw the woman at the well(John 4) and knew she needed living water to give her life. Jesus saw through her mask of self sufficiency.

 

Here is the really awesome part, as a member of the body of Christ, we have the same ability to see through the masks people wear. We are given the power of the Holy Spirit and one of the gifts He gives us is discernment. There are those times that you are talking with someone on Sunday morning and as they say, “Yeah, everything’s great!” and you feel that might not be the whole truth, when you feel that little discernment in your gut telling you to ask again, I think being Christ-like means pushing a little. Respond, “Are you sure everything’s great?” or just, “anything you want to share?” and give them a chance to vent. Many times our discernment can be off a little, or the person just isn’t going to open up. A lot of times though, they will take the opportunity to lay their burden on you and you can help them carry it to the cross. What a joy, to bear one another’s burdens!

“Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

It might feel like prying, but we are called to first, not be a people who wear masks, but are unveiled (2 Corinthians 3:18) for the glory of Christ. Second, to be like Christ and see through the masks that people are wearing and help them take them off. Let’s not forget our duty to care for each other. Halloween is fun, but let’s only wear our masks one day a year. Let Christ’s Church be unveiled for His glory!

Thanks for reading, until next time… Keep Shouting!

Asian is on the move!

What a season this has been for the Ramsey clan! We are so excited to tell you that we are moving! No, we aren’t just moving across town like normal, we are moving to Greenville, Michigan. Shocking isn’t it? We were shocked at first too! Now we are just super excited to become a part of the community in Greenville and to have the opportunity to serve Greenville Community Church (GCC) as their Student Pastor.

Greenville is a medium sized town that has a lot of the characteristics of a small Indiana town, but it is big enough to have a lot of restaurants, a Wal-Mart, and a Meijer! Greenville, after all, is the home of the Meijer family and the location of the first Meijer store. Shortly after our return from our mission trip to Ireland, we will be making the move up to Greenville to our new home.

It is amazing how God has worked in our lives in the last two months. I made a great friend in January of 2016 at Wesley seminary. His name is Bryan and He was working at a church in New York as a Worship pastor. I reconnected with him the following summer for an on site class at Wesley. He told me how excited he was to start working as the Senior Pastor at Greenville Community Church in Michigan. I thought that it was really cool that he was moving closer to Indiana, so I could go visit him. We joked about working together in the future and I never thought he would think of me when an actual Student Pastor position opened up at GCC.

Alyssa and I traveled to Greenville to get a feel for the church to see if it was something we should pursue. We were so excited to hear about how the church was developing in all of the right ways! This is a place anticipating the move of God, and I knew in my heart that I wanted to be a part of it. I was worried about Alyssa not feeling up to moving away from home, and I didn’t want to push her. Thankfully God was already working on her heart, too! She felt really encouraged by our visit, and we were moving forward with GCC. Shortly after this visit to GCC things at New Life Alliance (NLAC) (The church in Logansport, IN where I was serving as Worship/Youth Director) came to an end unexpectedly, and we knew it was a sign. God was slamming a door closed so that we could run through the open door at GCC He had for us! How awesome our God is!

We were sent a text from a good friend of ours in the midst of all of this. She told us about a story that I had never heard before. The story of Israel crossing the Jordan river in Joshua 3. The Lord stopped the river from flowing a half a mile away from where they were crossing the the Jordan so that they would pass safely across. Jesus had done the same for us. Jesus was escorting the Ramsey Family the same way He had escorted the Israelites. I was so humbled to know that Jesus was NOT surprised by the unexpected end to our ministry at NLAC, and He was already preparing a place for us at GCC. I am still humbled, and grateful for His provision and His faithfulness.
We’d love to invite you to pray with us as we make this big change, and as we anticipate big, HUGE, things to be happening for the Kingdom of God at GCC and in Greenville.

I have to agree with Mr. Beaver from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe “Aslan is on the move!”

Until next time… Keep Shouting!

 

Bigshipsmallruddertitle

I recently spoke with a friend of mine who was frustrated with the situation at his work place. So many changes needed to happen and he felt like he was the only one who could see everything that was so desperately needed. When he took the time to lovingly have conversations with people about actions that could be done to help set the organization back on course, they were met with resistance, or more simply, ignored. This was the point at which I was able to talk with him. After hearing his explanation of the problem, I said, “Sounds to me like you are the small rudder on a big ship that needs to turn.” There was an eerie silence on the other end of the phone as I waited for a laugh or grunt or anything really. He simply replied, “What do you mean?”

I have been that small rudder on a big ship many times before. That seems to be the modern role of many worship leaders as they are brought in to a church to settle the worship war. Many worship leaders are seen as disposable and poor leadership will see them as expendable casualties of a worship war that has been fought for many many years. Maybe you have been a small rudder on a big ship? Have you been in a position for an organization that relied on you to help turn things around, but in turn they gave you very little power or influence to change anything? If so, you’ve been a small rudder. What should you know about the condition of the small rudder?

Small rudders at best turn slow
The best case scenario is that you work at your maximum efficiency and actually help turn that ship. The hard truth is this, the best result you can muster is a slow turn. If we are talking titanic, you are going to hit that iceberg. If you are thinking of setting a long course in which lots of time can be put into knowing when and where to apply the right pressure to move the ship, you will be successful, if you are patient.

Broken Rudder

Small rudders break when pushed too hard
The worst case scenario is this, when a small rudder is turned too hard, too fast, it will just break off. What does that mean when we jump off of the analogy boat and into the water of real people in real life? It means broken, burnt out, burnt up people. People who are hurt and will carry scars for a long time.

LeaderBigships

Leaders, don’t use small rudders
As a leader if you have already set up a new hire, or low totem pole person in your organization to carry the weight of a broken situation, you have just placed a small rudder on your ship. Always assign a few people to a fragile area, so there can be accountability, relief, and support. If a worship war has been brewing, get a worship planning team, not a solo worship leader. As a leader, if you knowingly send a small rudder into a massive ship problem, you are responsible for the resulting burnt out individual left broken on the floor in front of you.

Small rudders, be patient or broken
Sometimes you are a small rudder, and you have no choice or control in the matter. Do what you can and be patient. Easier said than done, but the other option is scary and tough to recover from. If you don’t want to be broken and used up, take your time when you are challenged with changing a situation. Be patient with yourself, the people involved, and your leader. They might not realize that they have placed you in the situation. Be patient, be graceful, be better. Because the truth is, a small rudder CAN and WILL turn a big ship, you just have to give it enough time.

Until next time… Keep Shouting.

 

– Ryan

What's Your Theology of Scripture Logo

We talk theology of God and of Church and many other things. Rarely though do we consider our theology of scripture. In the following pages I want to consider my theology of scripture and how I have let the Bible shape my understanding of how I can understand the Bible. I want to discuss four areas for my theology of scripture: Listening to God’s Word, Context, Method, and Authority.

 

No more reading (Listening to Gods Word)

As I reflect on to developing a theology of reading scripture I can’t help but notice the mistakes I have made in the past. Mistakes that were seemingly unintentional and also innocent, but nevertheless had consequences. It seems to me very clear now that the reason why so many of God’s people have a hard time understanding God’s word is simple, they can’t hear it. We don’t become changed individuals when we read classic literature such as Moby Dick or Pride and Prejudice. Now, we do become emotionally stimulated and “touched” by the words written on those pages, but we don’t become changed individuals. That is the power of the Word of God, predesign changed humans. Who once were lost but now found, blind that now see. So what is the difference? “Whereas the church and its related institutions tend to focus on ‘moral acts’, scripture is far more concerned with shaping our imaginations, our patterns of thinking, which, inevitably, find expression in transformed commitments and practice. Behavior serves as a display case for our deepest commitments”(Green 2007 19-20). What Green is saying here is that an institution focuses on the changing of behavior, but behavior doesn’t always mean the changed heart of an individual. This is the aim of God’s word, to do more than just inspire “good” living and really change the inside of a person. This starts with hearing over reading God’s word.

When we consider the word “hearing” one might become confused when it is used to describe reading. The individual could want to jump to the conclusion I am speaking of reading the words out loud, or maybe listening to them be read while you follow along. While these are both good practices, and I will address method a little later in this writing, I am not referring to that kind of hearing. In hearing the scripture we acknowledge that the words given to us in the Bible were once give to the people who wrote them down. Those words were spoken through God. Once they were written down an interesting thing happened, they became words written down on paper, just like any other book. We have the privilege of experience the same God that the original writers of the Bible were able to experience. This gives us the opportunity to seek the author of all of scripture as we approach it. In seeking His direction He is able to breath the same breath of life into the words and we become like the original hearers of the Word of God. This is how we become hearers of the Word of God and not readers. Reading is good, but when it comes to the Bible, hearing is best. We cannot, not be changed when we are faced with the hearing of God’s Word in our lives.

 

Context is Everything (CIE)

Many fundamentalists have argued that the Word of God is applicable to today just as it was in the original context. They have claimed that we should follow the same orders given out to the original readers of the bible and that in stating this concept, that context is everything, we have deluded the bible’s message and in fact aided the enemy in his quest to mislead and confuse believers. This in fact is a misleading argument. I have a lot of love for all of my brothers in Christ, but to argue the idea that we should completely ignore the context for which the original scriptures was written is simply foolishness. We do have to be careful however, there are precarious situations in our studying of scripture that can lead us in directions that cause issues. For example, the issue of what commands are applicable and which aren’t applicable. In the book, “How to Read the Bible for all its Worth” Fee and Stuart approach the issue like this, “one should be prepared to distinguish between what the New Testament itself sees as inherently moral and what is not. Those items that are inherently moral are therefore absolute and abide for every culture; those that are not inherently moral are therefore cultural expressions and may change from culture to culture”(Fee, Stuart 1982 85). The issue here is the ability to distinguish what is exactly a “moral issue”. Even this can present problems in bible understanding. Even Stuart says that Paul’s list of sins is not a debatable issue. Those things are locked in as non acceptable behaviors. The problem then becomes Pauls other commands such as women wearing head coverings in church, or the idea of women teaching over men. Were these cultural issues? Sure they were. What was the reason for these practices though? If the reason was for the depression of feminine power or disrespect of women, then they are not applicable today. If however, they were for the reason that “you(women) will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you”(Holy Bible: New Living Translation 2004 Genesis 3:16), then it is still an applicable command because the curse has not been lifted yet. Maybe Paul is protecting the Church from the effects of original sin corrupting it. Right now the women issue isn’t the argument though, the point is that we still have a difficult time determining what exactly was a cultural argument, and if it is indeed a cultural argument, does it still apply to our culture today. We cannot throw the “baby out with the bathwater” as it is and say only hard and fast moral commands still stick. If we do this, it will not be long until we read “sexual immorality” and say, “Is homosexuality really immoral?” At some point you have to put your foot down and declare truth as truth while all the while discerning what scriptures meant culturally to the time it was written. There is a tension here that must be managed, and it is up to us to rely on the Holy Spirit and manage it.

 

Method (Not Methodism)

How we approach any encompassing task could be called our method. Just because we do something with a method doesn’t mean that method can’t be changed, or does it mean that it should be changed. It is much like the idea of liturgy, humans really like habit and an ordered way of looking at something. Our method of studying the bible is just that, our liturgy of approaching scripture in a detailed and constructive way. The following is the way I tackle scripture to teach and share with other believers.

Observe the Content. First and foremost knowing what you are teaching is the first step. Identify the passage and then begin to observe the content. What is there, what isn’t. A great way to do this is to first read the entire book the content is located in. Then read through from the chapter before your chapter to the chapter after the selected chapter. Then read all of your chapter. Then you can zero in on your selected passage with a full understating of what the context of the surrounding passages is. While reading though the passages you are studying specifically, ask the questions, who, what, when, where, why, and how? You have just created a guideline for your study in answering these questions you will have successfully dug deep into the passage.

Identify the Genre. Even more than just knowing what the genre of scripture is, in this step you identify much more than that. You will look at the author, the people it is written to and any other specific type of information you can gain by looking at the tables given to this passage of scripture.

Analyze the Structure. In looking at your passage you may have begun to notice a pattern emerging. Maybe a list, increasing in intensity. Have you seen comparisons made, or maybe contrasts? Is the author repeating words or phrases? In these patterns you will find how the author is communicating in in their communication lies keys to understanding the purpose.

Explore the context. This is a big part of this process and will most likely be the most time spent. As you explore the context you will begin to answer the questions that have been asked as you read through it. You will find answers to the Who, What, When, Where, How, and Why? This mass amount of information will have to be run through a filter of what is important to this specific passage and to the readers of the text. As you run all of this through a funnel to slim down the information you will get to the very core of the passage, its theme and purpose.

Articulate its purpose. This is the final stage of dissecting the passage. Now as you have funneled everything down to a one line summary of what this passage means, you begin to unpack it. You will apply this passage to the individual hearing it now. Challenge them to really apply this to their lives. Apply the passage even broader to your local congregation. How will this passage shape your church? Then finally apply it to the Church of Jesus Christ world wide. Look at what the scripture is asking of us as the body of Christ and apply it to your daily life.

 

God said it, I believe it (Authority)

The problem of becoming in tune with studying scripture rightly is the temptation to twist the aspects of what it says to suit your liking. We must, even being one who deeply understand the text, be willing to acknowledge the authority of scripture as we come to understand it. The old saying in reformed circles goes something like this, “God said it, I believe it, That settles it” is in essence false. It doesn’t even matter if we believe it or not, if God said it, that settles it. We must maintain this kind of view of the authority of scripture. When we begin to waiver on this issue the foundation on which we stand begins to give way and the Church loses its power.

This has to be balanced in this view however, we do not worship the Bible, we worship the one whom the Bible speaks of. Too many times people take the authority of the Bible issue and blow it into all out bible worship, as if the book is the item of our affection. This is idolatry, and the only way to avoid this sin is by remaining steadfast in our focus on the giver of the book, God.

 

What’s your “Theology” of Scripture?

The most important thing to remember when dealing with scripture is this, prayer. We must pray before, during, and after reading scripture. Ken Schenck in his book “Making Sense of God’s Word” illustrates this well, “Pray! It is bad theology to think that prayer dosent apply to studying Scripture. Our minds are too fallible in our reasoning. In addition, there are many points where we simply do not have enough information to know the original meaning or how it relates to us today. We needs the Spirit’s guidance through these moments of uncertainty. By all means, pray before you begin the process of moving from text to life”(Schenck, Schenck 2009 46). We must rest in prayer to bring those words on a page back to life. When God breathes His breath of life into them, we once again can hear the very words of God, the way the writers themselves heard them. We must be a praying people, especially when we hear Gods word.

 

Resources:

Fee, G. D., & Stuart, D. K. (1982). How to read the Bible for all its worth: A guide to understanding the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Green, J. B. (2007). Seized by truth: Reading the Bible as Scripture. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

Holy Bible: New Living Translation. (2004). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House.

Schenck, K., & Schenck, K. (2009). Making sense of God’s Word. Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Pub. House.

3 Ways the church should respond to black lives matter

1) Love the protesters, don’t join.

The Church has been tied to social justice for some time. Whether this was a good choice or not is not the discussion here, but simply a fact. What has happened historically is that the Church becomes known more for what it is against, or which cause it supports, than for the gospel of Jesus Christ. In this time, many social justice warriors in the Church will want to stand beside the Black Lives Matter movement. While their heart is good, the long term effects of that action could hurt the Church. There are powers at play in this conflict that we don’t see and joining arms with a movement that has undefined motives and end games could be hurtful to the main purpose of why we exist as the Church.
Instead of joining the protest, we need to love the parties involved. The church should be the ones taking care of the injured, listening to the hurts and pains of the people, and asking what both sides of the conflict need in order to accomplish the greater task giving people Jesus, the only solution to the issue. Ideally the war would rage, and the Church, represented by every race, gender, age, and nationality would be in the midst of both sides caring for those who need care. All so that they might know the healing power of Jesus.

2) Care for your community

Local churches lost influence in their communities back when FDR passed the New Deal and the government began taking care of people. People have become even more inward focused and their lives have become secluded and focused on their own needs and desires. It seems the Church has missed the mark here by not continuing the taking care of their community. I wonder how many pastors or church staff walk their communities and knock on doors to see who lives around the church. I wonder who is asking the questions, “What do you need?” And “How can we help?” It seems that the government might be the only one asking these questions through welfare and other means. The Church needs to step in and take ownership over their local communities. If the Church was involved in the community, maybe we could head off these issues of race before they explode into riots. After all, if we are loving each other, race is never an issue. Caring for our communities used to be our priority. If the Smiths were out of food, you took them food or you invited them over for dinner. If Mr. Smith needed a job, you helped find him one. If we are not in the lives of our community, we can’t know what they need. Our local churches must care for our community.

3) Point both sides to Christ

Whether it’s Black Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter or All Lives Matter, we must point to Christ. The solution has to begin with Christ and end with Christ. If the Church tries to step in and offer anything other than Christ we are offering a false hope and a false help. The black community is hurting, feeling as though they have been wronged. The law enforcement community is hurting, feeling as if they have been wronged. There is no joining of sides that will solve this issue. Jesus is the solution. The love of Jesus, the power of Jesus to heal, reconcile, and rebuild. That’s what we need in our country right now, Jesus.

Church let’s offer the one thing that we have. Let’s be bold enough not to reach for platitudes and false hope. Let’s be brave enough to offer them Jesus.

One of the many cars I drove on the department I worked for, right after a good washing.

One of the many cars I drove on the department I worked for, right after a good washing.

One year ago today, I resigned my position as a Probationary Patrolman for the Logansport Police Department. Let me tell you a little story, the story of my love, then hate, then respect for Law Enforcement as a career. As you know I am a pastor, I would say born into it as it is what I was created to do. I feel the most like myself and centered when I am working in ministry. I have always had major respect for Law Enforcement. My next door neighbor growing up was a Deputy Sheriff and I still remember riding in his patrol car one day when he was off duty and stopping on the side of the road to help a stranded motorist. I think that is when my interest in the profession started.

Ryan being sworn in by the Mayor and Chief of Police.

Ryan being sworn in by the Mayor and Chief of Police.

Like I said, I have wanted to help people since I was very young. I know now that desire comes from wanting to help people know Jesus, but when you are growing up, you barely know anything. When I was in full-time ministry I found out that the police department in the town I worked had a chaplaincy program. After many attempts to get into that program, I was finally able to become a chaplain for that department. The main responsibilities for chaplains are to take care of the officers and their families emotionally and spiritually, the other task is to provide support in the event of death notifications in the community.  I really love this position. It gives you the excitement of police work, but also the ability to care for people. Unfortunately, these are almost always unpaid, volunteer positions. After working as a Chaplain for a while I thought that I could make an even bigger impact by crossing the line from police support to an actual police officer. I was wrong. Here are 3 reasons why this pastor couldn’t cut it as a police officer.

Before one of my first shifts on the department.

Before one of my first shifts on the department.

What is your definition of helping people?

Generally helping people can be defined as giving someone a hand when they fall down, or in distress you come and rescue them. The dictionary defines “help” as to “make it easier for (someone) to do something by offering one’s services or resources.” When you work in Law Enforcement this brand of help doesn’t happen all that often. I thought this was all I would be doing. It can become very discouraging when all you do is drive around all day and take reports on how Betty stole something from Susie and this is the 15th time you’ve taken these reports from these two people.

It was cold nearly the entire time I worked for LPD.

It was cold nearly the entire time I worked for LPD.

When I speak to people who have been police officers for a long time, they have to change their mindset. This means you believe that giving out that speeding ticket is helping that person have an incentive to slow down that could save their life and others. You are helping people, but you will most likely never see the fruit of that help. I believe if you want a job where you can help people or “rescue” them, go be a firefighter. Everyone loves firefighters. A firefighter can come to your house, hose it down with water ruining everything inside, and the homeowners will hug them as they leave. Police officers show up and break up a domestic fight with weapons involved and the victim tries to slug them as they leave. Another great option if you want to help people is to become an EMT or social worker, two noble professions that need good people who want to help others.

I just don’t enjoy danger that much.

You won’t get shot at every day as a police officer unless you live in certain cities in the United States, but it will be dangerous. Think about this, at least every shift you get a “hot” call and have to drive there as fast as possible. People DO NOT pay attention to lights and sirens. The chance of being in an accident is very high. I used to also fear hitting a child that would run out into the street. Usually, these hot calls ended up being nothing and we had just risked life and property because somebody’s dog got loose and was barking at the neighbor, but they called into 911 saying they were being attacked by a dog. I did not enjoy that risk. All I could think about was my son and my wife when I was driving, hating that every moment I risked my life for someone might mean I might never hold them again.

Also, as it turns out, my reaction time just sucks. Being someone who loves theological thought and philosophy really gets in the way when you have to make a quick decision about chasing after a guy or not.

You can’t leave your pastor hat on.

If you want to be killed as a police officer, just leave your pastor hat on. What is the pastor hat? A pastor’s nature is to hope for the best for someone, to love them, trust them when no one else will. Pastors see the best in people and do everything in their power to help them attain that best person. If you treat people like that in police work, you will get shot, stabbed, or get caught off guard and get a good ground and pound from a criminal. You have to look at people differently. This doesn’t just stop when you clock in and out. At the mall, walking through the park, and even at family reunions. Police work changes your operating system. A friend of mine on the department said this, “You either become who you have to be to survive, or you quit.” It was that simple. By then end of that shift when he spoke those words to me, I knew, my time as a police officer was done.

Ryan Police Academy Graduation

Ryan Police Academy Graduation

I am thankful for my opportunity to live life as a police officer for a short time. My experience at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy(ILEA) was transformational. I learned skills there that will help me the rest of my life even though I am not a police officer anymore. I graduated there as President of my class and learned even more about my character as a leader and was given the opportunity to speak the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a room full of some of the most influential men and women in Indiana.

Ryan, Alyssa, and Emery after graduation at ILEA.

Ryan, Alyssa, and Emery after graduation at ILEA.

The leadership at Logansport Police Department was very gracious to me as I resigned from my position at the department. The truth is, the 3 reasons I couldn’t make it in Law Enforcement are only half the story.

Our uniform for ILEA.

Our uniform for ILEA.

While standing in my room at ILEA God gave me my mission for my life, “Preach the Gospel, Lead the Church”. God had called me back to full-time ministry and it took me another 6 months to give in to that call.

On March 15th, 2015 I resigned my position at the department, with no other job, no opportunities I knew of, and with a family to provide for, trusting that God would keep His word, and provide. He kept His word, and opened the door for my position at New Life Alliance in Logansport Indiana. How did I find out about that position? One of the police officers remembered, their church was looking to hire a pastor.

Right now you might not know what God has for you, or where things are going, but I promise you this if God has called you to something He will not forsake you. Trust in His promises. God is with us. Thanks for reading, until next time… Keep Shouting.